It was a lazy autumn Sunday afternoon. Not too warm, not too cool – just perfect. A lingering scent of smoke hung in the air from the Marek Fire, but it was almost completely out.
It was on days like these that Chuck Bartowski relocated himself from his bedroom to the courtyard of the apartment complex. Sure, his WiFi enabled laptop DID go with him, so he could continue being his bad nerd self, but he at least got outdoors.
Just after two o'clock, Chuck found himself dozing off. The warmth and the sunlight proved to be a lethal, if comfortable combination. His head sagged forward, and his chin rested against his chest –
Chuck's head snapped upward and his sunglasses went flying at the sound of Devin's voice. "Jesus, Devin," he gasped. "You shouldn't do that to a sleeping man!"
"Sorry, bro!" Devin replied, clapping Chuck on the shoulder. "Hey, that stalkerish ex of Sarah's hasn't been back around, has he?"
Chuck shook his head. "I don't think we need to worry about him any longer. He was pretty pissed at Sarah when he left."
Devin raised an eyebrow. "So much the better if he doesn't come back – but I'll kick his ass if he does, alright?"
You and what army? Chuck thought to himself. "I… don't think that'd be such a hot idea, Devin."
Devin smiled. "Whatever you say, bro." He kept heading toward the apartment, and then stopped.
"What do you got goin' on right now, Chuck?"
Chuck shrugged. "Nothing much," he replied. "Actually, nothing at all, to be honest."
Devin smiled. "You think you could get Sarah up for a little two-on-two with me and Ellie?"
"Two on two?" Chuck asked, confused.
"Basketball, bro," Devin said. "Two-on-two pickup game?"
Chuck made a face. "I don't know if that's such a good idea," he said. "I'm really not that good –"
"Please," Devin interrupted. "I've seen the '96 Westlake yearbook – the picture of you and Ellie, the 'Ballin' Bartowskis'? Her, the senior star of the girls varsity team, and you, the freshman phenom?"
"Okay, fine," Chuck admitted grudgingly. "I might have some skills."
"That's what I thought," Devin replied with a smile. "Give Sarah a call. I bet she'll be up for it."
Chuck sighed. "When and where?"
"Got a reservation at Wilshire Country Club," Devin told him. "Three o'clock."
Chuck shook his head as Devin walked inside. The man had confidence, that was for sure. He'd made a reservation?
Of course he had. He was Captain Awesome.
Sarah Walker was a big fan of the building she lived in – and right at the moment, there was but one reason why.
The rooftop patio.
She had been lying out on the deck for the last two hours, enjoying one of the last natural tanning opportunities of the season. She'd been tempted to go upstairs with a glass of Riesling, but had restrained herself and gone instead with Pom.
"Drinking will not get you over Chuck," Casey had admonished her two nights before. He had called her to let her know about a mission brief on Saturday morning, and at the time, she had been quite sloshed.
"No idea what you're talkin' about, Casey," she had told him.
Casey had grunted in disbelief. "Give me a break, Walker. Larkin told me before he left. He told me how you feel about Chuck, and even if he hadn't, it was pretty clear when you refused to take the shot at Union Station."
That had gotten Casey hung up on. But he was right. Drinking wasn't going to make her feel any better – in fact, if anything, it would make it far more likely that something would happen where Chuck would get hurt or even killed.
So of course, when Sarah's phone rang, she wasn't exactly overjoyed to see that it was Chuck. In fact, seeing his smiling face pop up on the screen made her heart ache – and that pissed her off. She would never understand just how the hell he had gotten under her skin so badly.
She sighed and answered the phone. "Hello?"
"Hey," she heard Chuck say uncertainly at the other end. "You up for a bit of cover maintenance?"
Cover maintenance. It was only the second time she'd heard him say that, and she already hated it. "Yeah, I guess so," she replied. "What's up?"
"Devin wants to play some pickup basketball over at the Wilshire Country Club," Chuck told her. "You and me versus him and Ellie."
"As long as he didn't have shirts and skins in my mind," Sarah replied sarcastically.
"Yeah, if that was the case, he and Ellie are SO shirts," Chuck said. "My sister is pretty much the last person I want to see topless."
Sarah pulled the phone away from her ear and looked at it strangely. Did he intend for that statement to have some sort of underlying meaning? Couldn't hurt to ask.
"So… you're saying you'd rather see me topless?"
Chuck didn't say anything for a very long minute. Finally, she heard him say, "You are the devil, Sarah Walker," but there was finally a note of humor in his voice.
"And all earth is my playground," she replied sardonically. "Alright, what time?"
"Three," Chuck said. "And don't be late, or Devin will get kinda pissy."
"Captain Awesome, get pissy," Sarah mused. "That might almost be worth it."
"Alright, I'll be on time."
When Sarah arrived at the country club, she found that Devin and the Bartowskis were already out on the court. "Think fast!" Devin yelled when he saw her, heaving a ball in her direction.
Between college basketball and CIA-developed skills, Sarah's hands were up and ready for the ball long before it ever got to her. Nonetheless, it still stung the palm of her hands – Devin had put a great deal of force behind the pass.
It had been awhile since Sarah had played basketball, but she had been able to dig up her old black basketball shorts and her favorite basketball t-shirt – one from the (sadly) now defunct Charlotte Hornets.
She started to dribble the ball back toward them. Chuck turned to see her, and smiled – and it looked to be a "I'm genuinely pleased to see you" smile as opposed to the "I'm smiling for the benefit of our cover" that she had gotten from him a lot the last few days.
Sarah smiled back, and flicked the ball in his direction. Chuck reeled it in effortlessly, turned, and launched a rainbow shot from beyond the arc. It dropped straight through the basket, leaving only a slight swish of nylon cords to mark its passage.
"Nice shot, bro!" Devin said. "So, we got ourselves two teams. Who shoots first?"
"Uh-uh, not so fast," Ellie interrupted him.
Devin looked confused. "What's up, babe?"
Ellie smiled. "I think that Sarah and I can take you and Chuck."
Sarah's eyes widened. "Are you sure that's a good idea, Ellie?"
Ellie turned toward Sarah. "Four years of high school, four years at UCLA. You?"
Sarah raised an eyebrow. "Just one year in high school, but four years at North Carolina."
Chuck furrowed his brow, and caught Sarah's gaze. She nodded, almost imperceptibly, but she knew Chuck caught the nod. Sarah was doing her best to let him in on real parts of her life, and she figured that letting him know that she had played college basketball wasn't going to hurt anybody.
"Alright," Devin said, his cocky look replaced by one of slight insecurity. "Let it never be said that we weren't up to any challenge – right, Chuck?"
Chuck grinned. "We're gonna get our asses kicked, Devin."
Devin frowned. "Not awesome, Chuck."
Contrary to Chuck's pessimistic prediction, though, the game stayed fairly even. Ellie and Sarah were able to drive to the basket almost at will, but Chuck and Devin were able to hold their own. It worked in the men's favor that they were playing on a half-court – if they had been playing full-court, Ellie and Sarah would have likely mopped the floor with them.
After about twenty minutes, Sarah decided to take it hard to the hole and see who challenged her. Cutting around the edge of the three-point arc, she pump-faked Devin so hard that he ended up falling over. Sarah headed toward the basket with a full head of steam, certain that Chuck wouldn't get to the lane in time – the last she had seen him, he was covering Ellie in the opposite corner.
Sarah lifted off just shy of the basket, reaching upward, ready to release the ball. THAT was a beautiful layup, she thought as she flicked the ball of her fingertips –
Only to watch in dismay as a large hand swatted it out of mid-air and sent it flying down the court. Sarah landed just as Chuck did, and he looked down at her with a huge grin. "You telegraphed that one WAY too much," he told her.
"Oh, it is ON," Sarah growled, narrowing her eyes.
Devin brought the ball back to half-court. He checked it to Ellie, and then brought it in. Despite her challenge to Chuck, Sarah stayed on Devin –
Right up until he flicked the ball over to Chuck. Chuck was cutting across the court right into the lane, and Sarah was just a few feet away from being in perfect position to get between him and the basket.
Moving like the CIA-trained operative she was, Sarah put herself on a perfect intercept course and launched her body into midair, ready to return the favor –
Except that as Chuck took off on his own drive, he slipped, and his body fell forward, the force of his launch propelling him directly toward Sarah. Her eyes widened and she tried to brace herself, but it was no use.
Chuck's one hundred ninety pounds crashed into Sarah at full tilt, rocketing her toward the court. She slammed into the hardwood, the breath knocked out of her. Chuck stuck his hands out in front of him to avoid landing on her, but his wrists were only able to absorb some of the impact, and the secondary collision sent Sarah's breath whooshing out once more.
She gasped as she tried to catch her breath, but it wasn't coming. "Jesus!" Ellie yelled, dashing across the court toward them.
Sarah tried to sit up, but Ellie wouldn't let her. "Stay on your back for a sec, Sarah," Ellie insisted. "That was a pretty nasty fall – I want to make sure you're alright."
She acquiesced, her breath finally starting to return to her. "You did a number on yourself there, Chuckster," Devin opined. Sarah rolled her head over, looking on as Devin examined Chuck's wrist. Chuck winced as Devin bent the wrist.
"Alright, let's stand you up," Ellie finally said. She got an arm under Sarah's shoulders, helped her to a sitting position, and then helped her stand up –
"Ow," Sarah objected, feeling a twinge of pain in her right hip.
"Where does it hurt?" Ellie asked, her voice taking on a professional tone.
"My – OW – hip," Sarah gritted.
Ellie gently ran her fingers over Sarah's right hip. "It's not dislocated," Ellie said, "and if you're standing, it's not broken – but it's definitely swollen. You definitely bruised it badly, maybe even a deep tissue bruise."
Lovely, thought Sarah. A pickup basketball game puts me out of commission. General Beckman's never gonna let me hear the end of this one.
"And it looks like Chuck gave himself a mild wrist sprain," Devin said. "Which, sorry, guys, but game over."
Ellie looked worried. "Sarah, I don't think it's a good idea for you to drive with your hip like that."
Sarah grimaced. "Yeah, probably not."
"And I don't think Chuck should be shifting with his wrist all messed up," Devin added.
"Well… this is a problem," Chuck opined.
"Not really," Devin said with a shrug. "How about this – I'll drive Sarah's car back to her place, you two catch a ride with Ellie, and she can drive me home from Sarah's."
Sarah shrugged. "Sounds good to me."
"Thank you, Devin," Sarah said as Devin handed her keys to her.
"No problem," Devin replied. "Chuck, tell you what. You give me a call when you kids are, uh, done here, and I'll give you a lift home."
Chuck looked puzzled. "No, it's okay, Devin, I can go now."
Devin smiled. "No, Chuck, I insist. You guys have fun now – but do be a little more careful, alright?"
And with that, Devin walked out the front door of Sarah's building. Chuck looked at Sarah, a helpless look on his face.
"Well… more cover maintenance, I guess," he said.
Sarah shook her head. "You don't have to call it that, Chuck," she told him. "Our relationship might just be a cover, but it doesn't make our friendship any less real… does it?"
For a moment, she was afraid Chuck was going to say "Yes", but he shook his head, and said, "I suppose you're right."
With a small smile, he looked at her, and said, "Come on, I'll help you upstairs."
He slid his arm around her shoulders. Sarah gingerly limped across the lobby to the elevator, and then down the hall when they reached her floor.
Damn tactical location, she cursed mentally. She had purposefully picked an apartment away from the elevator, but that was coming back to bite her now.
Finally they reached her door. She reached down and unlocked the door, but Chuck ever the gentlemen, reached out for the door knob. "Allow m – SON OF A BITCH!"
He howled and clasped his right arm against his chest. He hadn't even thought about the consequences of turning the door knob, but the twisting motion had felt like a hot poker had been rammed straight through the heel of his hand.
Sarah cringed. "Are you okay?" she asked, concerned.
"Fuck," Chuck spat out through gritted teeth. "Goddammit… please tell me you have ibuprofen. Or crack."
Sarah couldn't help but laugh. "I'm sorry," she apologized. "I… uh, don't have any crack. Or ibuprofen. You think NyQuill will do?"
Chuck shrugged as he followed Sarah into her apartment. "Well, it's got acetaminophen in it, so we can give it a shot."
Chuck sat down on Sarah's couch, while limped off in search of the NyQuill and a bag of ice. She returned with both, and Chuck smiled wanly. "Thanks," he said.
"Of course," Sarah replied, opening the NyQuill and pouring Chuck a decent size shot of the cold medicine. Chuck slammed it down, and made a face.
"God, that stuff tastes disgusting," he grumbled. Sarah nodded in agreement, and then, without thinking, lifted the bottle to her lips and chugged about a shot's worth.
"Ew," she gasped, her displeasure writing itself across her face.
"NyQuill straight from the bottle, huh?" Chuck asked, holding the bag of ice against his wrist. "That's a new one."
"I've done worse," Sarah muttered, trying to get the taste of the medicine out of her mouth. "God, Denis Leary knew what he was talking about when he called it the 'original green death fucking flavor', didn't he?"
Chuck smiled. "You like Denis Leary. Really?"
Sarah shrugged. "A little bit. He's funny."
Chuck shook his head. "That is actually kind of fun- OW!"
"What is it?" Sarah asked.
"My damn neck hurts now," Chuck complained. "Like, out of nowhere."
Sarah stood up and limped over to where Chuck sat. Plopping down next to him on the couch, she placed a hand on the back of his neck. "Well, no freakin' wonder," she said drily. "Your neck is knotted beyond the point of ridiculousness."
"Great," Chuck grumbled. "That's what I need."
"Oh, shut up," Sarah admonished him teasingly. "I can take care of this, and you know it."
"This is true," Chuck replied. He knew well the magical power of Sarah's hands on one's neck and shoulders.
After a few minutes, Chuck's neck felt much better, and he was starting to feel a little drowsy. "You can keep doing that forever as far as I'm concerned," he mumbled.
"Actually, I can't," Sarah replied, an edge to her voice. "Sorry, but I can't keep this position – my hip's killing me."
Chuck winced. "I'm sorry," he said. "I feel really bad about that."
Sarah shook her head as she stood. "Don't worry about it," she told him. "I should've known better than to try to block the basket."
She stretched out her right leg – "DAMMIT!" she howled as the bruised flesh stretched.
"Are you sure you're okay?" Chuck asked, a pained look on his face.
Sarah smiled grimly as she hobbled to her bed. "I've definitely been better," she muttered, sitting down on the edge of the bed and trying to keep her leg stretched out.
Chuck rose from the couch, setting his bag of ice on the coffee table. "Look, I'm not a doctor like the two over-achievers I live with, but I am familiar with basic first aid," he said. "Let me see if I can help somehow."
"Okay," Sarah acquiesced. It couldn't hurt.
Chuck sat down on the bed next to her. "Hold still," he said softly, beginning to ever-so-gently probe the flesh around Sarah's hip bone with his fingertips.
Sarah gritted her teeth. It hurt. It hurt quite a bit for Chuck to do that. And yet… it felt just the slightest bit good, too.
Chuck shook his head. "It's not swollen anymore," he said. "But… do me a favor, pull down the waistband of your shorts just a little bit?"
Had it been anybody else, Sarah would've smacked them upside the head. But she was pretty certain that Chuck didn't have malicious intent, and so she did as he asked, pulling the waistband down just far enough for him to see her right hip.
"Yikes," Chuck said in alarm, making a face. "Oh, that's gonna be bruised for a while."
"Huh?" Sarah asked. She didn't like the sound of that.
Chuck scooted forward so that Sarah could look over at her closet door and see the bruise in the mirror. "Oh God," she groaned. Her right hip was a mass of purple, with odd red and yellow streaks throughout.
She looked back up at Chuck – and was alarmed to see that he looked like he was on the verge of tears. "I'm so sorry," he said. "There's no way I would ever purposefully hurt you –"
"Chuck!" Sarah interrupted him. "It was an accident! It's not your fault, okay?"
But Chuck didn't seem to be listening. "I can't believe I did that," he muttered. "And because I can't seem to draw a line in the right place, I can't even offer to kiss it and make it better – not that it would actually work if I did –"
He clamped his mouth shut. "Srry," he mumbled through sealed lips.
Sarah looked down at the bed, then cast a hooded look back up at Chuck. "You know, you could always try."
Chuck raised an eyebrow. "Try what?"
A ghost of a smile appeared on Sarah's lips. "Kissing it and making it better."
Chuck looked taken aback for a moment, and then shook his head. "No," he said, resignedly. "No, I can't. We talked about this."
"Excuse me?" Chuck replied. That was clearly not what he was expecting Sarah to say.
Sarah shook her head. "Chuck… I KNOW I'm not normal. I know that I can never be exactly what you want me to be… but why on earth would you want normal? Normal is boring, Chuck. You're not normal – God knows there's no way I would like you the way I do if you were. I like you because you're so different, Chuck!"
Chuck looked at Sarah in astonishment. He didn't say anything for what felt like an eternity. Finally, he wet his lips with his tongue and said, "That's the longest you've ever talked about how you feel about me."
"No it's not," Sarah replied. "You just didn't realize it. When we were at that restaurant a couple weeks ago, and I told you how fantastic you are… that was me telling you how much I care about you."
Chuck sighed. "I don't know, Sarah," he said. "What do you want me to do?"
"Chuck, I want you to kiss it and make it better!" Sarah replied forcefully.
Chuck slowly nodded. "Alright," he said quietly.
Moving off of the bed, Chuck knelt on the floor next to Sarah. Slowly, almost painfully slowly, he bent his neck down so that his lips were next to Sarah's bruised hip. Ever so gently, he brushed his lips across her skin.
The slight contact on the damaged, tender flesh sent a shock through Sarah's entire nervous system, causing goosebumps to stand up all over her skin. "Ohhhh," she shuddered involuntarily.
Chuck gently kissed her bruised hip again, and again, each kiss causing her body to react like the one before. The shock was also starting to affect regions south, which Sarah was simultaneously shocked by and yet not surprised whatsoever.
He ever-so-slowly moved up and toward the center of her body, continuing to plant barely perceptible kisses on her skin as he went. As he moved away from the bruise, her skin became less sensitive, but that didn't stop a tiny thrill from running through Sarah's body with each contact of his lips on her flesh.
When Chuck reached her navel, he began to move upward at almost a snail's pace. He caught the hem of her Hornets t-shirt with his fingers and pushed it slowly upwards, keeping it moving just ahead of the pace of his upward journey.
Before long, Chuck had reached the bottom edge of Sarah's sports bra. Lifting her arms, she allowed him to remove her t-shirt, and then he leaned her backwards on the bed, and with what seemed like years worth of pent-up passion, kissed Sarah.
This kiss didn't contain the franticness of the one at the San Pedro docks, nor the shyness of the one in front of Roan Montgomery nearly two weeks before – no, this kiss felt like the slow eruption of a long-dormant volcano. It must be the NyQuill, Sarah thought, but her thoughts were lost as Chuck's tongue invaded her mouth, its tip dancing over her own. She moaned wordlessly as he continued to kiss her.
Finally he pulled back, and Sarah exhaled loudly, trying to catch her breath. "You – are so not done!" she gasped as Chuck looked up at her.
"Far from it," he replied with a sly smile.
Chuck scooted back downwards, and kissed Sarah on the stomach once more. Then, looping his fingers under the hem of her shorts, he began moving downwards. With each kiss, he pulled her shorts just a little further off, just like he had with her shirt. When he reached the hem of her underwear, he simply looped his fingers into those and kept going.
Sarah's breathing got more and more ragged with each progressive kiss. Finally, Chuck planted one kiss on her –
"OH MY GOD!" she howled, causing Chuck to look up in alarm. "Don't you DARE stop!" she ordered him, and he started laughing.
Sarah sat up and crossed her arms across her chest. She knew she had to look ridiculous, clad only in a sports bra, basketball shorts and panties around her ankles, coming down from what UNFORTUNATELY hadn't quite been an orgasm.
"What exactly do you think you're doing?" she asked, annoyed that Chuck had stopped.
"I think I'm teasing you," Chuck replied, looking far too pleased with himself.
"No more teasing," Sarah commanded him. "I need you to finish making me all better."
Chuck narrowed his eyes and tilted his head. "No, not exactly what I wanted to hear."
Sarah turned red. "Oh, you are gonna pay, mister."
Chuck shrugged. "All you have to do is say it."
"What?" Sarah shot back. "You want me to say, 'I want you to make mad, passionate sex to me'?"
Chuck snorted. "Sarah, you are not Sasha Banacek. No, that's not what I want you to say."
Sarah narrowed her eyes. "Chuck, if I don't come very soon, I am going to be a very unhappy person."
An amused smile appeared on Chuck's face, and he appeared to be mulling over what Sarah had said. Finally, he said, "Okay, close enough."
Moving back up onto the bed, Chuck situated himself so that he was on Sarah's non-damaged side. Then, pulling her tightly against him, he kissed her again. Her eyes fell closed and she clutched at him, her hands grasping at his hair. She could feel him growing hard against her undamaged hip. "Alright," she muttered, pulling back from the kiss. "Enough passing around the outside, take the ball to the hole already."
Chuck's eyes widened, and he burst out laughing, rolling over on his back. "Oh my God!" he howled. "That sounded so unspeakably filthy!"
Sarah growled at him wordlessly. "Chuck," she said, a threatening note entering her voice, "if you don't get moving VERY quickly, I am going to SHOOT YOU!"
Chuck choked back his laughter, but it was clear that he was having to try desperately to keep from laughing. "Oookay," he said with a grin. "Give me just a mom-"
Sarah didn't want to give him a moment. Instead, she reached out, grabbed the waistband of Chuck's shorts, and yanked downward, leaving him naked from the waist down.
"Al…right then," Chuck said slowly, the smile disappearing from his face. "I can take a hint."
Sarah sighed. "Chuck… no… it's just… I've wanted this… wanted you…"
The look on her face had turned from one of pleasure and frustration to one of desperation. "Since the day I met you, Chuck."
A look of astonishment appeared on Chuck's face. "Really?"
Sarah nodded. "Really."
Chuck knelt on the bed. "Then I suppose it's the least I can do," he replied, the smile returning to his face.
Pulling Sarah to him, he kissed her yet again. Without breaking away from her, he moved so that he was kneeling between her legs. He leaned forward gently, doing his best not to jostle Sarah's damaged hip.
She felt him pressing against her opening, and a shiver passed through her body. "Yes," she whispered, pulling away from the kiss.
Chuck pushed forward, and Sarah exhaled raggedly as he entered her completely. "Oh God," she whispered. "Oh, God, Chuck."
"Right the second time, but not quite the first time," Chuck whispered in her ear. He lifted his head to look her in the eyes, and she saw the amused smile on his face.
"Don't stop, Chuck," she whispered.
And he didn't. Pulling back, he thrust into her again, and again. He moved gently and slowly, not wanting to hurt her hip any worse than it already was. Despite his efforts, though, Sarah grew impatient. Sitting up slightly, she wrapped her arms around his waist, as though she could force him to go more quickly.
But Chuck refused to pick up his pace. It was like slow torture – with each thrust, the wet friction sent an ever-increasing bolt of stimulus through her nervous system. Sarah's vision had begun to blur, and her breathing had become very irregular. She felt like her heart was pounding in her head, but oh God, it felt so good, it felt like she was about to EXPLODE –
"AHHHHHHH," she moaned loudly, digging her fingernails into Chuck's back. He winced, but by this point, he was at a point where nothing was going to stop him either. He looked down, and the sight of Sarah's face, mid-orgasm, was just enough to push him over the edge.
His breath hissing out between his teeth, Chuck froze, buried as deeply inside of Sarah as he could go. She continued to shudder as she came down from the peak of her orgasm, even as Chuck came deep within her.
Finally, he finished, and he slowly withdrew from Sarah. His knees suddenly weak, Chuck collapsed on the bed beside her. Neither of them said anything for a moment.
"Wow," Sarah finally whispered.
"Yeah," Chuck agreed.
Sarah turned to face Chuck. "Do you think we could do this more often?"
"Uh, absolutely," Chuck replied. "Though, perhaps without the bodily harm."
Sarah shrugged. "Hey, if that's what it takes…"
Chuck didn't say anything, he just shook his head and smiled. Then, sliding an arm under Sarah, he embraced her, holding her gently against him. "You're amazing, Sarah Walker."
She smiled. "You're not too bad yourself, Chuck Bartowski."